Top Sports Myths Debunked

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
Team Mom

True or False: You should keep your eye on the ball. You may think you know the answer, but do you really? Read on for some of the biggest sports myths, and check yourself against the facts.

Related: Little-known baseball facts to impress the kids

Myth: You should keep your eye on the ball.
The Facts:
Baseball is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball ... but should you watch the ball? An exhaustive look at baseball statistics leads the blog LiveScience to conclude that ball players who watch the ball will miss it. In fact, a ball pitched by a pro player can go upwards of 90 to 100 miles per hour, too fast for the eye to track it. The best players will take the first couple of pitches to anticipate where the ball will come across the plate. LiveScience also notes that catching a ball takes the same kind of geometry on the fly: "Good players do not run to a place where the ball will land and then wait for it, but rather catch the ball while running," Ken Fuld, visual psychophysicist at the University of New Hampshire, said.

Myth: Gymnastics stunts growth.
The Facts: It's true that a typical gymnast tends to be of smaller build. But that is "more due to the fact that that makes them well suited for the sport," writes Daniel Green, orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York, on the MissOMoms blog. Growth issues could come from an eating disorder, but that's more of an issue with the most competitive athletes. Or, issues could result from "repetitive impact on a limb" -- causing one limb to be shorter than the other, for example -- but that is "exceedingly rare."

Myth: There's a home field advantage.
The Facts: There is, but it's not what you think, says Stephen Dubner of Freakanomics Radio -- the thinking that sleeping in your own bed or know-how of your field means you have a better chance of winning. Nope: It's the officials. "They make more calls in favor of the home team. Now, NFL officials are very, very good. But they're also human. And on some level, most humans seek approval, and in this case and in the case of football, from 60,000 screaming fans. Hard to ignore."

Myth: More training makes you better.
The Facts: Not so, say the experts. More reps are helpful only if fitness is the issue, and for top athletes, that's usually not the case. Instead, says the blog SportsCoachingBrain, "The key is to get more from your current training program through better engagement, stronger belief, and more focused commitment of your athletes in everything they do."

Myth: Weight-lifting will make women bulky.
The Facts: Unless you're taking steroids, you won't ever look like a man as a result of hitting the weight room. The difference in muscle mass between men and women is tied to testosterone levels, and men have 10 times more of the hormone than women. Women who weight train will look muscular, not manly.

Myth: People should be sore after a good workout.
The Facts: Soreness shouldn't be the goal, but it is often a side effect of working out. As trainer Joe DeFranco points out, "I've never read any research that links postexercise soreness to strength gains, hypertrophy gains or improved athletic performance. Who the hell wants to be sore anyway?"

Myth: Concussions occur only after a direct blow to the head.
The Facts: Unfortunately, concussions can happen in more ways than getting hit on the head. According to MomsTeam, a concussion can be caused by a direct blow to the "head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body if the blow is transmitted to the head."

Myth: Defense wins football championships.
The Facts: Well, certainly a good defense is better than a bad one. But, say the folks at Freakonomics Radio, statistics show it's not all that key to the game. "If you look at past Super Bowls and just football in general, defense is not the magic bullet that the cliche suggests." Instead, the formula for success includes field goal units and special teams.

Also on Shine:

Are Competitive Sports Safe for Girls?

Who Invented the Wiffle Ball?

5 Tips to Help Prevent Youth Sports Injuries